I planted some morning glories this morning.
While much of the country is buried in snow I was blessed to dig in the dirt today. I can’t show you any major project that I completed. My gardening skills are limited these days and I can’t manage more than about thirty minutes of work before pain takes control and limits my accomplishments. However, I have learned that the habits of the tortoise are just as beneficial as those of the hare, and I can still have a beautiful yard if I’m patient. And I want to encourage those of you who have arthritis, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, or back problems to do the same…even if you only work ten minutes a day, even if you only garden in one pot on the porch. If you’ve always enjoyed digging in the dirt you need to keep doing it as long as you can.
I have a few tips for those of you who consider yourself disabled. You may have discovered these on your own, but I’ll share them just in case.
First, use the right tools. I find my tasks so much easier if I have tools that are sharp, not too heavy, not too short or long. I searched high and low for a shovel that was “just right”. I use a garden wagon because it’s easier for me to operate than a wheel barrow. I use long-handled pruning shears even for some small jobs because they limit the distance I have to stoop forward. Even if you’ve had a tool for several years it may not serve your current needs and ability.
Buy smaller quantities. I buy smaller bags of mulch, potting soil, bird seed, etc. I transport with a wagon. I lift as little as possible.
Next, divide any project into small tasks. It might take me a week to do something that I would have completed in a day a few years ago. Who cares? No one is going to ask how long you spent creating a flower bed or filling a pot or hanging a basket.
Alternate tasks. Today I raked one sack of leaves, pruned one hedge, cleaned one small section of a flower bed (with a hoe), and planted two packets of seeds. I’ve found that my body is much happier if I don’t attempt to repeat a specific set of movements over and over for thirty minutes. “A little of this and a little of that” gives me the same results with much less pain.
Ask for help. For some tasks, such as mulching, tree trimming or mowing you may need help. I have a spouse who is willing to help with the yard, but you may not. So how about a neighbor, child, grandchild, friend, fellow church member? You may even know someone who doesn’t have a yard and would appreciate a chance to be outside.
Stretch and exercise. When I came in from gardening today I did a stretching routine that I learned at the gym. You may need to stretch before you work, or afterwards, or both. Don’t surprise your “winter body” with a lot of new challenges. No matter how much we enjoy it, digging in the dirt is still work. Take it slow and easy…